Saturday, December 31, 2011

Musicale for Three

I had a nice afternoon, and it had nothing to do with New Year’s Eve. The young pianist William McNally, a student of Jacob Lateiner and Ursula Oppens, is in Philadelphia this week to audition for Astral Artists. He needed a place to practice, and Renee Goldman lent him her living room and her piano. She also invited me over to listen to him, because one of his audition pieces is Elliott Carter’s rapid-fire “Caténaires.” He played it for us from memory, while I leaned against the far end of the piano and followed the score — or, rather, I tried to follow it. Bill faltered a few times and said he was unhappy with the effort, although he was confident he could work the piece back up before the audition. I on the other hand, was quite happy. It’s a rare day you hear a Carter piece up close in a small room, with the notes thrumming through the instrument and into your hands.

I paid for the treat by going to the market with Renee and carrying the groceries in from her car. It was a small price. As we were leaving through the basement, Bill started up the “Caténaires” again, this time with the metronome on. Speed is 96 to the quarter note, and it doesn’t change throughout the piece, which is unusual for Carter.

Best of luck to you, Bill. And thanks again.

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